In any injury case, establishing the negligence of the other party is often a key issue in obtaining compensation. But one cannot overlook the requirement to prove the injuries alleged were proximately caused by the defendant, or at least substantially worsened as a result of defendant’s negligent actions.
This is especially important for plaintiff’s who have pre-existing health problems or who have endured a subsequent injurious accident, as defendant will almost certainly argue against proximate cause.
That was the case in Golnick v. Callender, an injury lawsuit before the Nebraska Supreme Court. Here, defendant actually admitted negligence in causing a head-on collision with plaintiff’s vehicle, though he denied the assertion that he had been texting when he crossed the center line to avoid stopped traffic ahead. However, defendant still prevailed in this case because plaintiff was unsuccessful in proving his injuries were proximately caused or substantially worsened as a result of this particular crash.
Plaintiff was 71-years-old at the time of the crash.There was evidence the plaintiff suffered spinal stenosis before the crash. He also had pre-existing vision problems. Other injuries plaintiff had sustained to his neck, shoulder, head and back were reportedly attributed to a a subsequent car accident in which plaintiff was rear-ended by another driver. Defendant filed a motion to allow all of this into evidence, with the assertion the more recent crash, which occurred two years after the first, in particular was the cause of plaintiff’s permanent injuries.
Although defendant initially denied negligence in the crash, he later amended his response to say that while he was negligent in causing the crash, the accident did not occur exactly as plaintiff had alleged. Further, he denied the crash he caused was the reason for plaintiff’s injuries. The court allowed this amended response into the record.
The court allowed admission of a photograph of plaintiff’s vehicle, which showed minor damage to the grill and front bumper of the vehicle. Plaintiff did not submit any evidence to indicate defendant was distracted by his cell phone, or make any offer of proof on that fact.
The court also rejected a number of plaintiff’s requested jury instructions, that would have instructed jurors on how to determine aggravation of pre-existing conditions as well as damages.
Jurors decided in favor of defendant. Although he had admitted negligence, jurors decided he was not responsible for plaintiff’s injuries. Plaintiff appealed, but the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed, noting no abuse of discretion by the trial court.
In cases where a plaintiff has pre-existing conditions or has suffered injury after the incident in question, it is still possible to successfully collect damages from a defendant. But it does require more extensive prove to show proximate cause.
The bottom line is negligence is not the only point plaintiff must prove in order to prevail. That’s why it’s important to only trust your case to an experienced injury lawyer.
Contact the South Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Golnick v. Callender, March 20, 2015, Nebraska Supreme Court
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